Saturday, October 30, 2010

David Brooks: For a Confiscatory Estate Tax?

One of Underbelly's crack team of policy advisers commends me to an offering from the sometimes-insightful David Brooks:
Obama will need to respond to the nation’s fear of decline. The current sour mood is not just caused by high unemployment. It emerges from the fear that America’s best days are behind it. The public’s real anxiety is about values, not economics: the gnawing sense that Americans have become debt-addicted and self-indulgent; the sense that government undermines individual responsibility; the observation that people who work hard get shafted while people who play influence games get the gravy. Obama will have to propose policies that re-establish the link between effort and reward.
Let's be fair:L this is not as wooly as some Brooks columns.  I'd agree there is a malaise problem, and I also wish that Obama would do more to try to confront it.  But  I really don't think it is a matter of "policies" as it is of leadership--he's turning out to be terrible at conveying his aspirations and his intentions.  This may sound like "mere salesmanship"--but /a lot/ of the presidency is salesmanship (and didn't your father tell you that every job is a sales job?).

Anyway, I cannot for the life of me imagine what the hell Brooks means by saying that "Obama will have to propose policies that re-establish the link between effort and reward."   When was the link dis-established, and by whom? Is he saying that Obama broke it?   Bush?  Jimmy Carter?     Andrew Jackson?

The only thing I can think that Obama has done so far to break a nexus between risk and reward is to make it microscopically more difficult for banks to predate upon us.   Brooks may lament that change but I am not sure how he would even track it.  Beyond that, the most meaningful alteration that I can remember in the risk-reward tradeoff is    the Bush efforts to destroy the estate and gift tax, creating a new generation of trust fund babies who really do not give a rt's ass whether school keeps or not.

No comments: